The Discovery Zone

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Kids love to unravel a mystery because they’re motivated
by their curious nature. Use these ideas where imagination and
exploration reveal biblical truths…

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There’s a dimension of learning that naturally appeals to
children. It’s the place where they discover the truth behind the
words they read or hear. It’s the dimension that causes adults to
ponder childhood memories of discovery, adventure, and
exploration.

You can capitalize on kids’ love of discovery with these seven
Sunday school activity ideas. Discover a new dimension of
imagination and exploration with kids that can reveal biblical
truth to their curious young hearts. Enter — The Discovery
Zone.

Nifty Knitting

Grades K-6

Source — “For you created my inmost being; you
knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).
Discovery — Kids will learn that they’re
uniquely created by God.
Supplies — You’ll need a dark- colored plate
made of pottery or glass, a half-eaten cookie, talcum powder, a
small soft paintbrush, pencils, 3×5 cards, Scotch tape, baby wipes,
and a Bible.
Experiment — Before class, place a half-eaten
cookie on the plate. Then make very clear fingerprints on the top
of the plate. Make sure no one else touches the plate.

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As the kids enter the room, say, “Someone has mysteriously eaten
the cookie on this plate! I’m going to need your help to figure out
who ate my cookie.”

Ask, “What’s one thing that each person has and no two are
alike? Let’s get to work solving our mystery.”

Remove the cookie and have a child lightly sprinkle talcum
powder on the plate. Have a second child use the soft paintbrush to
lightly brush the talcum powder across the plate.

Ask, “What did the powder reveal?”

Say, “We all have a little oil on our fingers, and we leave that
oil on everything we touch. In this case, the oil left behind
fingerprints! Each of us has a different fingerprint; it’s part of
what makes us special. Let’s make pictures of our unique
fingerprints.”

Give each child two 3×5 cards, a pencil, and 10 one-inch pieces
of tape. Say, “Rub your pencil on one of your cards to make a dark
smudge the size of your fingertip. After you’ve done that, rub your
fingertip over the smudge until your fingertip is completely
silver. Press one piece of tape to that fingertip. Then take the
tape off your finger and stick it on your other card. Label your
print with which finger it is and which hand it came from. Continue
this process until you’ve made a print of each finger on both
hands.”

While the kids do this, make a set of your fingerprints. When
kids are finished, give them baby wipes to wash their fingers.

Then ask, “What do you notice about your fingerprints? Do they
look like the fingerprints of the person sitting next to you?
What’s the same and what’s different?”

Say, “The science of identifying fingerprints is called
dactylography. People who investigate crimes use fingerprints to
help capture criminals because no two prints are alike. One of the
ways your fingers got those little prints on them is from moving
around in your mother’s womb. That’s where God formed you, and you
grew there until it was time for you to be born. All of your
movements in the womb made those little swirls on your
fingers.”

Read aloud Psalm 139:13. Then say, “God was working on your
uniqueness even before you were born. Now let’s try to figure out
which one of God’s special creations ate my cookie. Let’s try to
match someone’s fingerprints with the ones on the plate.”

Kids will discover that the fingerprints are yours. Ask, “How
did you figure out that the prints belonged to me? How are my
fingerprints different from yours?”

Say, “I’m glad God made our fingerprints so different and
special!”

(Experiment adapted from Amazing Science Devotions for
Children’s Ministry, Group Publishing.)


Mirror Images

Grades 3-6

Source — “And we, who with unveiled faces all
reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the
Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Discovery — Kids will learn that they can
reflect God.
Supplies — You’ll need one Bible and a small
square mirror for every five children, and a wallet-size school
photo or Polaroid photo of each child.
Experiment — Form groups of five. Give each
group a mirror, and have kids take turns looking at Bible text
reflected in the mirror. Ask, “What do you see?”

Say, “Mirrors produce a reflection that typically appears
backward because light waves reflect straight off the surface. But
a face in the mirror is different; it doesn’t look backward in a
mirror because it’s symmetrical, which means that when the image is
divided, both halves look the same. Let’s test this concept
together.”

Have kids take turns looking into the mirror. Ask, “What unique
facial qualities do you see in the mirror? Do you think one side of
your face looks exactly like the other side? Why or why not?”

Have kids take out their photos. Demonstrate how to hold the
edge of the mirror perpendicular to the photo so the mirror
provides a dividing line down the center of the face. Half of the
face should reflect into the making the photo and reflection look
like a whole face. Allow enough time for each child to test the
mirror concept.

Afterward ask, “How was your symmetrical reflection in the
mirror similar to your actual photo? How was it different? Did this
experiment reflect an image in the mirror that you would easily
recognize, or does the image look like a stranger to you?
Explain.”

Read aloud 2 Corinthians 3:18. Say, “This Scripture says that
we’re to reflect the Lord’s glory. What do you think that kind of
reflection looks like? Is the Lord’s glory something we can see in
a mirror? Explain.”

Say, “Your life is a reflection of a life that’s been changed by
God; your attitudes and actions can reveal what God is like. Take
another look at your reflection in the mirror. Does the image you
see reflect a person who’s been changed by God? What can you do to
reflect what God is like every day?”


Full Of Life

Grades 3-6

Source — “The thief comes only to steal and
kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it
to the full” (John 10:10).
Discovery — Kids will learn that Jesus desires
for us to have full lives.
Supplies — For each child you’ll need a large
marshmallow, a marker, a small glass iced tea or juice bottle with
an opening slightly larger than the marshmallow (or one for every
two children to share), a small piece of clay, and a straw. You’ll
also need a Bible.
Experiment — Have kids form pairs. Give each
child a marshmallow and a marker. Tell kids to draw faces on the
flat end of their marshmallows.

Say, “We’re going to do an experiment to see how much pressure
your marshmallow face can take.” Give a glass bottle to each child.
Tell kids to drop their marshmallows into the glass bottles. Give
each child a lump of clay and a straw. Show kids how to wrap the
clay 1 inch from one end of the straw so the clay forms a ring
around the end of the straw. Have each child place the short end of
the straw in the bottle so the clay prevents the straw from
dropping into the bottle. Then have each child press the clay
tightly around the mouth of the bottle so no air can get in or
out.

Say, “Your marshmallow face is plump and ‘full of life.’ What do
you think will happen to the faces if you blow air into the bottle
through the straw? Let’s experiment and see what happens.”

Have one partner blow air into the bottle and quickly suck it
out. Have kids do this until their partners can see the
marshmallows expanding and shrinking slightly. They may be
surprised to discover that the marshmallows expand when air is
blown in and shrink when air is sucked out. Then have partners
trade roles and do the experiment again.

Let kids experiment for three minutes. Afterward ask, “Were you
surprised at which action gave ‘life’ to your marshmallow? Why or
why not? What makes a person’s life full? Can a life ever become
too full? Why or why not? What kinds of things can lead to an
unfulfilling life?”

Read aloud John 10:10. Then say, “The air that you blew into the
bottle caused the marshmallow faces to expand. You were breathing
life into your marshmallow. The air blown in caused the tiny air
pockets in the marshmallow to expand, so it grew. But when you
sucked out to take away the air pressure, the marshmallows shrunk.
When Jesus comes into our lives, we have full lives.”


Joyful Raisins

Grades Preschool-3

Source — “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the
earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful
songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are
his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates
with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him
and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures
forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm
100).
Discovery — Kids will experience the joy of
praising the Lord.
Supplies — You’ll need raisins, a clear drinking
glass for every five kids, 2-liter bottles of carbonated soda
water, a CD or cassette player, lively praise music, and a
Bible.
Experiment — Say, “Tell about a time you were so
excited about something that you were bursting with joy and
excitement. What kinds of things make you that excited about
God?”

Read aloud Psalm 100. Then say, “God wants us to be filled with
joy and excitement when we praise and worship. We’re going to try
an experiment that reflects excitement.”

Form groups of five. Fill one glass with carbonated soda water
for each group of five kids. Tell them not to drink their
experiment. Play the praise music and encourage kids to clap their
hands and get excited about praising the Lord. While the music
plays, pass out five raisins to each child. Say, “Drop your raisins
into the glass, and see how the raisins react.”

The raisins may not move immediately, but soon they’ll be
bouncing around in the glass because of the bubbles around them.
Say, “The raisins are dancing because they’re reacting to the soda
water’s carbonation. The carbonation in the soda is a gas called
carbon dioxide. Tiny bubbles form on the raisins when they’re
dropped into the soda water. The bubbles collect carbon dioxide and
grow; that’s what lifts the raisin. When the raisin reaches the top
of the water, the bubbles pop, and the raisin sinks. Then the
process starts over again.”

Ask, “Tell about a time you felt like your life was out of
energy. How can worshiping God give you excitement?”


Bursting With Joy

Grades K-3

Source — “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the
earth, burst into jubilant song with music” (Psalm 98:4).
Discovery — Kids will learn that God wants our
lives to be filled with joy.
Supplies — You’ll need adult helpers, a Bible, a
facial tissue for every four kids, a teaspoon, baking soda,
vinegar, and one plastic 35mm film container for each child. Before
kids arrive, tear each facial tissue into fourths, and pour two
teaspoons of vinegar into each film canister.
Experiment — Say, “On ‘go,’ I want each of you
to act out Psalm 98:4: ‘Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music.’ Ready, set, go!”

Allow kids to shout for joy for one minute. When they’ve had
time to “burst” out some of their energy, give each child a torn
tissue piece and a film canister filled with vinegar.

Say, “The Bible tells us that we can be really excited about
God. Tell about a time when you were so excited about something
that you felt like you were going to burst.”

Then say, “I watched how well you all acted out our Bible verse.
Now let’s try to make something else burst forth.”

Show kids how to measure one teaspoon of baking soda and place
it in the center of the tissue square. Have kids wrap the tissue
around the baking soda. Tell kids to remove the lids of their film
canisters and wait.

Say, “We need to be careful with the next step of our
experiment. You’re going to place the tissue inside your film
canister and quickly put the lid on. Then we’re going to stand
back. A lot of pressure is going to build up inside — so much
pressure, it just might burst!”

Allow two kids at a time to conduct the experiment. Tell kids to
quickly step back after they secure the lids. (Small children might
need help securing the lids quickly.) The lids will pop into the
air, creating a lot of foam and giggles.

When everyone has had a turn, say, “I think our whole class is
bursting with joy. God wants us to be bursting with the good news
of Jesus. When we have so much of God’s joy built up inside, we
just have to let it out! I hope that you’re so excited about God
that you’ll be bursting all week!”


This Little Light Of Mine

Grades 4-6

Source — “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine
out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”
(2 Corinthians 4:6).
Discovery — Kids will learn that Jesus is the
light in a dark world.
Supplies — You’ll need a Bible, an aluminum pie
pan, a thumbtack, a hot glue gun, a foam plate, a wool rag or
sweater, and an empty ballpoint pen barrel (the hollow outside of
the pen).
Experiment — Alert: This experiment requires
adult supervision.

Say, “Think about a time you’ve seen a flash of lightning on a
dark night. How did the lightning change the sky?”

Allow the kids to tell a few stories. Then ask, “Did you know
that Christians are like a light in a dark place? Listen to what
the Bible tells us.”

Read aloud 2 Corinthians 4:6. Say, “This Scripture says that
Jesus’ light shines in our hearts. We’re going to do an experiment
that’ll demonstrate a little spark. I’ll need three kids to help
and one kid who wants to test our spark and doesn’t mind feeling a
slight shock.”

Place the pie pan face down on a table. Have a helper push the
thumbtack through the center of the pie pan. Turn over the pie pan
so the inside is facing up and you can see the point of the
thumbtack. Coat the tip of the thumbtack with hot glue. Push the
small open end of the pen barrel onto the thumbtack point. The pen
barrel will act as a “handle” for the experiment.

While the glue dries, have another helper rub the foam plate and
wool together for 45 seconds. Place the foam plate face down on the
table. Have another helper place the pie pan on top of the
upside-down foam plate using the pen handle. Turn off the lights
and have the spark tester quickly touch the pie pan with his or her
finger. The pan should produce a small shock and a small spark of
light. Take the pie pan off the foam plate using the pen
handle.

For another small shock, have the spark tester touch the pan
with his or her finger again. Touching the pan a second time will
neutralize the electrical charge. Repeat the activity for kids who
want to feel the spark.

Say, “When the plate was rubbed with wool, it created a negative
charge because the plate attracted electrons from the wool. When
the plate touched the pie pan, the electrons on the plate repelled
the electrons on the pan. But when a finger touched the pan on the
plate, the electrons traveled off the pan onto the finger. That was
the spark you experienced, and then the pan was positively charged.
That’s what the light of Jesus does in our lives. When we connect
with Jesus, he can help us be a positive force in a negative world
— a light in the dark!”


Listen Up

Grades 3-6

Source — “Would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?” (Psalm 44:21).
Discovery — Kids will learn that we need to be
spiritually healthy.
Supplies — You’ll need one plastic funnel and 1
foot of plastic or rubber tubing for every two children, electrical
tape, and a Bible.
Experiment — Form pairs. Say, “Listen! Can you
hear your heart beating? Let’s try to hear our hearts beat after we
do 20 jumping jacks. Ready? Go!” Do 20 jumping jacks with the kids.
Afterward ask, “Can you hear your heart beating now? Can you feel
it beating? What does it sound or feel like?”

Say, “Let’s try an experiment to see if we can hear our hearts
more clearly. We’re going to make stethoscopes to help us listen to
our hearts.”

Give each pair a funnel and 1 foot of tubing. Show kids how to
fit the tubing over the funnel’s spout. If the tubing doesn’t fit
tightly on the funnel’s spout, you can tape it to secure the
connection. Partners can listen to each other’s hearts by having
one child put the funnel over his or her heart and allowing the
other partner to listen through the end of the tubing.

After every child has had a chance to listen, say, “Your heart
pumps blood 24 hours a day. There are valves in your heart that
keep the blood moving through your body. These valves open and
close as the heart pumps the blood. That’s what makes the sound of
your heartbeat.”

Ask, “How was the sound of a heart different when you used the
stethoscope? Do you think everyone’s heart sounds the same? Why or
why not? What do you think God hears when he listens to our
hearts?”

Say, “God has a special interest in your heart because your
heart indicates more than your physical health. It also reveals
your spiritual health.”

Read aloud Psalm 44:21. Ask, “What kind of secrets does your
heart hide? How can our hearts be spiritually unhealthy? What can
you do to make your heart spiritually healthy?”


What To Do If Your Experiment Flops

One of the unique features of science experiments is that they
don’t always turn out the way you plan. And then panic sets in!
“What do I do? Where do I go from here?”

Have no fear; the unknown is part of what makes science an
exciting and wonderful teaching tool. Use these tips as a guide if
you encounter a science experiment that flops.

  • Make it a teachable moment. Sometimes what doesn’t happen
    becomes the lesson. Discuss with kids why the experiment didn’t
    work and what they could change in the experiment that might change
    the outcome. Discuss how life doesn’t always work according to plan
    either, and talk about how the choices we make can affect the
    outcome.
  • Find the answer. Failure often yields the answer we’re seeking.
    If an experiment fails, dig into the root of what went wrong. Your
    unexpected conclusions may bring insight you never expected.
    Discuss that there are times we fail in life, but God is always
    there. He never changes.
  • Compare the hypothesis and result. Science experiments begin
    with a hypothesis that doesn’t always match the results. Talk with
    kids about what they thought would happen during the experiment and
    what actually happened. Tell kids that sometimes God gives us
    answers in unexpected ways.
  • Persevere. After repeat tries and a host of variables, your
    experiment still may flop. We don’t always have the answers, but
    God does. And in times when the going is tough, God challenges us
    to press on and persevere.

Courtney Wilson is a children’s pastor in Vancouver,
Washington. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.

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